By JANET R. TOLETE (Health & Home)
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He invited them,‘Follow Me.’ (White, 2014)”
Mayfourth D. Luneta has 22 years of experience in DRRM training, research, and project implementation.
Born to activist parents who later went into development work and local governance, Mayfourth D. Luneta continues to live by her parents’ passion for serving the people. When she became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, that desire to make a difference in the community only grew deeper and stronger.
“The world is not getting better. The environment is in decline and, logically, there will be more disasters. These are opportunities for us to continue serving the Lord and serving other people—while we still have time,” explained the Deputy Executive Director of the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP).
CDP is a national non-government or civil society organization (CSO) known for promoting community- based disaster risk reduction andmanagement (DRRM).
Mayfourth originally took Psychology for her bachelor’s degree at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. But when she had an elective in Community Development, she realized it was the course that she wanted to pursue.
“I asked my mom if I could shift and she said yes, so I shifted to B.S. Community Development when I was already in third year college,”Mayfourth recalled.
When she graduated, she was able to organize women in communities, get a master’s degree in Public Health, and teach college subjects. Shelater found herself in the same field as her mother, who by then had already moved to international DRRM work in Thailand.
Center for Disaster Preparedness also provides psychosocial support to typhoon victims as in Ilagan, Isabela (above) and COVID-19 frontliners as in Pasig City (below).
Photo Courtesy of Pasig City DRRMO
Twenty-two years later, Mayfourth is now among the leaders of CDP, a member of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and ManagementCouncil (NDRRMC), the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, and the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction. Mayfourth’s expertise in DRRM includes training and building the capacities of people and communities to help them deal with disasters.
“At CDP, our vision is safe, resilient, and developed communities,” she said during our online meeting. As a part of DRRNet Philippines, which helped create RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010,Mayfourth feels proud for the passage of a law that provides a framework for how the government and the people can prevent, mitigate, prepare for, and recover from either human-made or natural disasters.
Prior to the law, DRRM in the country focused more on emergency response as described in Presidential Decree 1566.
“We would be worse off after Yolanda and other disasters if our law was only limited to emergency response,” she explained.
RA 10121 even predated the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030). Another achievement for CDP was being part of the development and publication of the Basic Instructors Guide on Community-based DisasterRisk Reduction and Management, the manual the Office of Civil Defense uses to train barangay officials and other community leaders. With the help of partner NGOs and together with Humanity & Inclusion, CDP was also able to help prepare another manual on making DRRMmore inclusive— considering the needs of persons with disabilities, women, older persons, and children.
Sources of joy
“It’s always a joy to hear them say, ‘Ma’am, we’re grateful we had this training. Without it, our purok (village) would have been among the victimsof the last landslide. Because we had trainings and drills, we were spared.’ ” Mayfourth also finds satisfaction “in imparting knowledge and influencing others to do the same; when you train people who will train others as well, and when theyimbibe these lessons in their own lives.”
As the directress of the church- based Adventist Community Services in Pasig City, she also trains fellow church members.
“We encourage the culture of helping others. We do relief operations. Our members now know that when you give relief donations, you don’t do it hastily. You need to do an assessment first. You also don’t do it for the sake of convenience, but based on where the need is the greatest.
Although eager to make a difference, DRRM experts like Mayfourth understand that no single sector or solution can address the country’sproblems when disasters strike.
For example, Japan, like the Philippines, sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire but is not as vulnerable as the latter.
“One reason why we have disasters is because we have high vulnerability due to the physical/ material aspect (such as poverty),social/organizational aspect (such as poor governance), and the motivational/attitudinal aspect (such as self-centeredness),” she explained.
People living beside waterways, for example, who have been trained in DRRM survive floods because they evacuate even before the typhoon arrives.
“That is good. The problem, though, is they will keep coming back to the same situation. Even if we help with their training, their deepervulnerability is not addressed. They say, ‘Of course we want to leave this place. If only we had enough money to rent a better place in a safer area.’ ”
This is the reason why DRRM advocates push for real risk reduction and addressing the issues of vulnerabilities. “Instead of using funds forrehabilitation, why not use it for prevention and mitigation like building resilient communities toward sustainable development? When you dothat, no one will become a victim of disaster. The cost is even cheaper. We actually spend more after the disaster than before it.”
“Acts of God”
While there are times when disasters are called “acts of God,” Mayfourth believes it is quite unfair to blame God for events that happen as a consequence of human actions.
“What God has allowed is different from what He directly caused,” she spoke with more firmness in her voice. “Scientists still debate overclimate change but it is clear that humans have major contributions to why disasters happen.”
“Let us remember that God is a God of love. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Jesus even died for humans so why would He want them dead? Most of His time on earth was spent in service. He spent less time preaching, but more time in healing the sick, feeding the hungry, etc. After doing these, that’s when He bade them follow me... People saw that God was concerned with them and He really loved them.”
DRRM in the Bible
Mayfourth added several examples of the four thematic areas of DRRM through the stories found in the Bible (Wall and Davis, 1992):
• Disaster preparedness in Noah’s time: “When they still had no concept of a storm or flood, God told Noah to prepare.”
• Disaster prevention and mitigation in Joseph’s experience: “He learned there would be a famine, so he found a way to store food. He could not prevent the famine, but he was able to mitigate the damage it could have caused.”
• Disaster relief and response in the early Christian church: “When there’s famine in a certain area, they pooled their resources and helped.”
• Disaster recovery and rehabilitation in the story of Ezra and Nehemiah: “Remember the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem?”
“These examples in the Bible show God having a hand in disaster risk reduction and management,” she concluded.
Given the great need for DRRM professionals, Mayfourth encourages young people to consider a career in the field.
“Get a course that is related to serving the people. Any course actually can be related to DRRM. What’s important is the framework ofservice—to God and the people,” she advised.
After decades in DRRM, Mayfourth still sees much to be done in building disaster-resilient and developed communities.
“I hope our laws will continue to develop and improve, especially their implementation. More attention should be given to addressing thecauses of our vulnerabilities so the fruits of our efforts can become more visible. I wish to see more people, especially Christians and people of faith, emulating Jesus’ example of genuine compassion.”
She eagerly looks forward to the day when “no one needs helping anymore because everyone is ready to help.”
Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Health and Healing (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2004), 73.
Michael Wall and Ian Davis, Christian Perspectives on Disaster Management: A Training Manual (Teddington, Middlesex: Interchurch Relief and Development Alliance, 1992).